As so many are remembering that fateful morning ten years ago, I can’t help but be transported back to that moment. I was sharing with my first block AP students about several events that had transpired on a trip my husband, in-laws and I had just returned from the day before. I thought many times how thankful I was we had not returned home on that day and been stranded from our family. My sister called me and told me to turn on the television as a plane had just hit one of the Twin Towers. We thought it was an accident at that point but it did not take long to discern this was no accident but an evil, calculated terrorist attack. We watched in silent horror as the second tower was hit. Then another teacher came down the hall and told us she heard the Pentagon had been hit. I remember the sheer terror I felt as I wondered what the rest of the day would bring. I felt a tightness every time I thought about our oldest boy we had just dropped off at college the week before. He was only an hour away but it seemed a continent. Our baby girl was in a kindergarten class at the elementary school a parking lot away from me. Our two middle children were at school with me. I could get my hands on them in a second if I needed to. I called my husband to make sure he was tuned in and he simply said, “I am watching.”
I then was jolted back to the stunned faces in my classroom. The questioning faces, that seemed to want to know “Why?” It was a difficult day as a teacher when you are supposed to have the answers and have to admit that you have none. Nothing. We followed our bell schedule and as each different class came in throughout the day we were all glued to the television. Some teachers tried to carry on with class, but I teach seniors. Their world, just like mine changed that day. They should see it. They should remember everything about this day and never forget, I told myself.
We have a military base two miles from our high school. It was actually the base they flew the President to and many of our students were outside and watched as Air Force One was about to touch down. I taught a young girl who came up and shared that her parents were stationed in DC and her dad worked at Dullos and her mother worked at the Pentagon. All I could do was hug her and pray. She came and found me later in the day to say contact had been established with both of them and they were okay. Many were not that lucky that day.
I have never been more proud to be an American than I was that day. To see a nation come together in prayer and grief and assistance from all over our country for the people in New York and Washington was a pride that I cannot describe. I guess my middle son felt the same way as a couple of months later he decided to join the National Guard. That was not one of mine and my husband’s happier days. As a matter of fact it was a rather low one. He was adamant and to this day I still do not believe he understand on that day the magnitude of what his decision would mean. He certainly does now and spent a year defending our freedoms in Iraq. I think about that year often with mixed emotions. One of the hardest years of my life, yet one I would not trade for anything as my faith grew stronger every day that passed. I learned to trust God in a way I never had before. I prayed so hard for all those soldiers that were deployed with our son during that time. It shames me to say that after he was home I was not as diligent in prayer for our other troops that were deployed. I think about my brother-in-law who has a career in the military and the strain it puts on my sister and their children when he is gone. Yet they do it gracefully because they too love our nation. I am in awe of our military families. They are certainly a special kind of people.
I don’t know if our country is better off ten years down the road than we were then. That is probably a post for another day, but I do know we still live in a free country. It saddens me how that freedom is abused over and over to satisfy self-serving people. I pray for the survivors of the people who lost their lives that day and every day that we have been battling terrorists since then. I am so encouraged when I read some of their stories. The human spirit is a remarkable thing.
It was hard to comprehend on that day what our world would be like ten years later. But here we are and life goes on. I have been a teacher for seventeen years and before 9/11 when I taught about heroes, I would get answers that centered around sports figures and celebrities. After 9/11 I noticed a shift in their mindsets. When asked about what they thought being a hero meant, I got answers like, “selfless actions”, “courage”, “others before self”, “helping those in need”. Yes, something good can come from tragedy. Look for the signs today. Pray for our military. Pray for those who will mourn their loved one s today. Most of all though, think of our country and her resilience and be proud to be an American. I know I am.